Might as well start this one with the controversy-du-jour.
Begin Opinion About Monorail Status
The first two images here are the signage outside the monorail to Epcot from the Ticket and Transportation Center. As of July 11th, the Epcot monorail no longer runs during evening Extra Magic Hours and purportedly closes within an hour of regular close every day, or 10pm most nights. Beginning August 1st, the Magic Kingdom monorail will also close one hour after regular Park close every night. That means the monorail will not run during most of evening Extra Magic Hours. At the moment, Magic Kingdom is closing at 11pm or later each evening, meaning the monorail will operate well into the night. However, come September, Magic Kingdom will begin closing as early as 7pm to accommodate Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party. This announcement caused quite the commotion around the Disney blogosphere, spawning this 1,500+ thread on DIS with nearly 70,000 views: http://wdwmagic.com/Transportation/Monorail/News/09Jul2011-Monorails-to-no-longer-operate-during-Evening-Extra-Magic-Hours.htm and big complaints on just about every related Disney website.
What exactly does this mean? Right now, it means that Disney operates the Epcot monorail system until 10pm. After that, buses are provided to Contemporary Resort, Polynesian Resort, Grand Floridian Resort, and Ticket and Transportation Center. From an efficiency standpoint, buses are significantly faster than the monorail. If you were taking the monorail from Epcot to the Grand Floridian, you would have to board the monorail at Epcot, disembark at the Ticket and Transportation Center, switch monorails over to the resort monorail by walking all the way down one ramp and then all way back the other side, wait for the resort monorail to arrive, embark, stop at Polynesian Resort, and then finally arrive back at Grand Floridian. While “fun,” it takes a horrendous amount of time – somewhere between 40 and 55 minutes depending on monorail timing. Driving takes about 15 minutes. For those staying at the Contemporary, you can add stops at Grand Floridian and Magic Kingdom as well.
What does it mean in the future? It’s hard to say what Disney will do come September when Magic Kingdom starts closing much earlier. One of the big perks of staying at a Monorail Deluxe (Contemporary, Grand Floridian, Polynesian) is obviously the monorail access between the three of them. For some, the resort monorail closing at 8pm three times per week would be a “deal breaker.” After all, if you were staying at Polynesian Resort with plans to have dinner at Chef Mickey’s at Contemporary one night, 1900 Park Fare at Grand Floridian one night, and California Grill at Contemporary Resort a third night, you may have second thoughts about dropping $400+ a night because transportation would be more difficult. Not to mention those planning to head back to their resort after Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween Party at 12:30am (or 9pm, 10pm, or 11pm for that matter). Certainly, there’s something special about boarding the Resort Monorail after a long day at the Most Magical Place on Earth. Something that simply can’t be replicated on a stinky, old, freezing bus.
My guess is Disney will compromise and run at least the Resort Monorail throughout the evening, though I wouldn’t be surprised one bit to see the Express Monorail to the Ticket and Transportation Center cease operation at 8pm on Mickey’s Party nights. As far as the Epcot monorail, evening Extra Magic Hours are only scheduled one night a week, so we’re only talking about a maximum of one additional bus ride per week there. Not a big deal, especially when a bus would be faster.
End Opinion About Monorail Status
Well now you can add one more opinion to your suitcase of opinions on that matter. Let’s continue.
We’re on a roll with the Magic Kingdom, so we might as well fast forward to this past Saturday. We’re arriving at about 1:45pm.
Not too bad. The great majority of people arrive between 10:30am and 12pm. A later arrival means shorter lines at security and the turnstiles, but long lines everywhere else. Not that good of a tradeoff if you ask me, though you could keep going through security rather than getting in line for Space Mountain.
Here’s a Mickey Mouse FASTPASS collected at exactly 1:50pm. Note that return times for both Mickey and the Princesses are just 40 minutes out, the minimum return time. You’ll also see at the bottom of the FASTPASS that I can collect a FASTPASS for another attractions at 1:55pm or five minutes in the future. I would imagine they do this so people don’t just stand there collecting unlimited FASTPASSes for Mickey. However, it basically means you can collect FASTPASSes for another attraction as soon as you arrive at its FASTPASS machines.
This is the Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh at 2pm. Winnie the Pooh has an abysmal capacity, causing wait times to routinely be in the top-five-highest Magic-Kingdom-wide. From time to time, the posted wait time will be longer than Splash Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain, and the other headliners. Even with FASTPASS, the average wait/ride time is 17 minutes. Note that this is the only attraction where FASTPASSes aren’t distributed next to the attraction. You collect Winnie the Pooh FASTPASSes at Mickey’s PhilharMagic, as pictured above. Mickey’s PhilarharMagic is located to the left of Peter Pan’s Flight as you approach it from Winnie. Luckily, FASTPASSes were only 40 minutes out. A “Surprise” FASTPASS for Mickey’s PhilharMagic also popped out along with the Winnie the Pooh FASTPASS with an immediate return window This is sort of a trick to make people visit Mickey’s PhilharMagic. You would almost never actually need to use a FASTPASS because the theater is so large and you’re virtually guaranteed to get into the next show. However, the FASTPASS may get you into the air-conditioned pre-loading area quicker.
Preparations for the 3pm Celebrate A Dream Come True Parade underway around 2:40pm in Liberty Square and Frontierland. I’m really not a big Parade person, especially in the summer when it’s 90 degrees out with 65% humidity.
While certainly not an ideal view of the Parade, one thing I like to do is hop on the Liberty Belle Riverboat in Liberty Square when it returns to the dock around 3:20pm. The Liberty Belle departs on the half hour and hour and the ride is about 17 minutes long. Since it takes the Parade about 15 minutes to reach Frontierland, you should be able to see at least the last half of the Parade. The view pictured above is from the Liberty Belle. You’ll be able to see the tops of the some of the floats and potentially be able to see the heads of some of the walking characters as well as hear the music. If the Parade isn’t important, but you still want to say you “saw it,” you might consider doing the same. Just to reiterate though, it certainly isn’t an ideal view if the Parade is important to you or the kids and it may just upset the kids if they can see the characters and floats in the distance.
The Liberty Belle offers some unique and often breathtaking views of Walt Disney World.
Here are some of the wait times around 3:50pm as we walk back toward the exit. The July Crowd Calendar indicates today is the most recommended Park with an overall crowd level of “8,” so this isn’t bad at all.
I’m not big on construction, but I suppose it’s worth pointing out that we’ve got some fresh work being done on the Adventureland/Frontierland sign and outside Enchanted Tiki Room.
Here’s a Pineapple (as opposed to vanilla or orange) Pineapple Float ($4.19) from Aloha Isle and Corn Dog Nuggets ($4.19) from Casey’s Corner. Not exactly the breakfast of champions, but we’re on vacation(?) right? The Dole Whip Float is always refreshing, especially as far as powdered-soft-serve-treats are concerned, and the Corn Dog Nuggets are the best hot dog item on the menu at Casey’s (in my opinion). As you may remember, I don’t care much for Casey’s Corner, but the Corn Dog Nuggets are great and not a bad value. You get ten of these suckers for $4.19 and you can guzzle hot cheese sauce until you’re sick. I recommend dipping the Nuggets in hot cheese sauce first, taking a small bite, and then filling in the excess areas within the Nugget with hot cheese sauce. Remember how Disney is always telling you to fill in all available space? Apply the same principles here.
Looks like we’re almost caught up. Another day at Hollywood Studios and Magic Kingdom coming up next.